Victim turns to Twitter in bid to track down bike thieves

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The Independent Online

As the beer garden buzzed with the spirit of summer, nobody seemed to notice the two men in tracksuits huddled over a brand new bicycle chained to railings yards away.

When a table of friends spotted the robbery at a pub in North London, one witness took a picture with a mobile phone and raised the alarm.

James Jones, 27, had just been telling friends how his new, £500 bike had revolutionised his life when he watched it being taken away.

"I couldn't believe they were so brazen to steal it right under the noses of nearly a hundred people," said the television director. I just left my phone, bag and pint of beer on the table and ran after them shouting 'stop'."

The police arrived and dusted for prints but none had stuck. When a bystander showed James the photograph they had taken on their mobile phone, he decided that, "as a last resort, I would tweet the image in the vain hope someone might recognise the thieves and bring them to justice".

The picture has become an internet sensation since the incident at 8pm on Saturday. By yesterday it had been viewed by more than 30,000 people including comedians Danny Baker and Rufus Hound and the newscaster John Snow. As Jones waited last night for leads, he joined the swelling ranks of bike theft victims. In London alone, reported bicycle thefts have grown from nearly 18,000 in 2008 to almost 22,000 last year.

As more people across the country take up cycling, cities including Manchester and Cambridgeshire have reported similar rises. In London, the Metropolitan Police launched Operation Helium, in a bid to halt a growing crime wave.